Fair Weather Friends

Jonathan Melber has a brief history of the Armory Show fair in his Huffington Post piece:

That was in 1994, when four New York dealers decided that organizing their own fair was the best way out of the economic slump. “We made a list of everyone we wanted to be in the fair, and eventually took three floors and had 60 rooms in the Gramercy Park Hotel,” said Paul Morris, one of the founders of what was initially called the Gramercy International Art Fair. “We charged people $50 to be in it. We didn’t know what we were doing.”

They kept doing it, though, as the art market began to rebound. After five years the fair had enough money to move to the 68th Regiment Armory, where, like its 1913 modern-art precursor, it took its name before eventually settling on the Hudson River piers. That’s when the market exploded. By 2004, total art sales during the Armory Show were $43 million; the last two years they hit $85 million.

Morris, who became Vice President of MMPI Art Shows & Events when it bought the Armory Show two years ago, said he’s “bullish” about the future of the fair, which has significantly increased the number of galleries exhibiting work–240, up 50% from last year’s 160–and, thanks to MMPI’s parent company Vornado Realty Trust, plans a $100 million renovation of Piers 92 and 94 next year.

New York Art Fairs Adjust to the Sobering Economy (Huffington Post)